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Seniors who volunteer are healthier and happier

(NC) Over 13.3 million volunteers across Canada will be celebrated for their contributions during Canada's 70th Annual National Volunteer Week, April 6-13, 2014. Canada's senior citizen volunteers have even more to celebrate as studies show volunteering improves their health.

“Canadian retirees who regularly give their time to others experience a number of increased health benefits compared to those seniors who don't,” says Ben Gottlieb, a University of Guelph psychology professor who has been researching the positive health benefits of volunteering in seniors. “Some of the health benefits include enhanced fitness and reduced physical limitations, better lung function, less arthritis pain, better cardiovascular function and increased happiness, energy and vitality.”

A 2009 study shows that having a strong sense of purpose in life is associated with lower mortality rates and volunteer work was listed as one way seniors can find this sense of purpose. A 2011 study found that, when compared to non-volunteers, older people who dedicated modest amounts of time to volunteer activities benefited from a reduced risk of hypertension.

“Today's seniors lead very full lives and they want to give back so their skills and expertise can benefit their communities,” says Erin Spink, past president of the Ontario branch of the Professional Administrators of Volunteer Resources. “The many health benefits associated with volunteering enhances the meaningful and rewarding life experience volunteering provides.”

Over 1.8 million Canadian seniors collectively volunteered more than 372 million hours in 2010, according to Statistics Canada. Many of them say that they hear about volunteer opportunities through family, friends, volunteer centres and online at

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